KRISTALINA Georgieva was also asked whether she felt the UK could end up leaving the EU altogether – and whether the prospect worries her.
The commissioner said: “I don’t want it and I don’t believe it would happen. When you pause and you look at the world and you ask yourself: where can we seek strength?
“And it is certainly in being a large economy – a large, diverse economy with huge opportunities for competitiveness built on that strength of 500 million people...
“I am absolutely confident that Europe is going to come out of the crisis we are now still experiencing, stronger.”
Prime Minister David Cameron recently decreed that the British public should be offered an “in-out” referendum on EU membership during the coming years. The announcement followed growing calls for a reform of the relationship between Britain and the rest of Europe from his Tory backbench.
Even the host for her Ulster visit, the UUP MEP Jim Nicholson, issued a statement at the time the referendum was announced, which read: “As parts of the EU continue to integrate then the likelihood of the UK leaving will only increase, unless we can forge a new flexible alliance that allows national governments to ask at which level powers are best exercised.
“People in Northern Ireland and across the UK should have the opportunity to finally have their say. I believe a focused and comprehensive debate concerning the on-going relationship between the UK and the EU is essential.”
However, the commissioner said yesterday that, ultimately, the choice is up to the public.
“It’s up to you! It’s up to you!” she said. “You have the right to vote. You ask me my opinion, and I see us being in the same family. But I’m not questioning your right, the right of anybody to express freely their view.”